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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Joyce Lam and her family used to rent a home in Irvine, but they had somewhere else in mind—specifically, Rancho Mission Viejo.

Lam, who works as an education specialist for Irvine Unified School District, had the South Orange County master-planned community on her radar for a while.

“We fell in love with the community and how beautiful it was,” Lam said.

Lam, her husband and their two kids moved to RMV in October, taking advantage of The Ranch’s “Home to Heroes” program, which offers a $2,500 homeowners association credit toward new home purchases for educators, first responders, and other people considered heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She heard about the program from a homebuilder, saying it helped her family a lot.

Irvine educator Joyce Lam benefitted from the “Home to Heroes” assistance program in Rancho Mission Viejo. Photo courtesy of Joyce Lam.

“We were really excited to hear there was a program like that,” Lam said.

Stephanie Walker, Director of Marketing for Rancho Mission Viejo, said the program accounted for nearly 20% of all Esencia sales during the initial program period, which ran from May to November. The program is being extended through June.

“We were very pleased with the success of the program, and are proud to support these heroes as they become part of our community,” Walker said.

The move itself was a bit chaotic for Lam, but she finds herself settling into life on The Ranch, saying she has enjoyed meeting other Ranch families. Their community is across the street from a children’s play area, and neighbors have been welcoming, Lam said.

“We’re enjoying all the play amenities,” Lam said. “Being able to go on a hike on the weekends is nice.”

New Rancho Mission Viejo resident Joyce Lam said she and her family, including her children, enjoy the amenities in the community. Photo courtesy of Joyce Lam.

The peace of mind comes as Lam, like many other educators, deals with a school landscape that has been practically turned upside down by the health crisis. Lam said the pandemic has made student instruction challenging, but Irvine Unified has ensured she has what she needs to help kids learn.

Walker said the Home to Heroes program was created to acknowledge and give back to the homebuyers who have served and protected local families and communities.

“We very much appreciate the commitment and sacrifice of these heroes and want them to know that they are always welcome at The Ranch,” Walker said.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at

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